While Trinamul Congress, led by its national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, staged a protest at Rajghat in New Delhi regarding the nonpayment of central dues to the West Bengal government
Even the most trenchant critics of the Congress will agree that the business of government formation in Karnataka, following the party’s signal triumph in the assembly elections earlier this month, has been accomplished with a degree of maturity. When election results were announced, there was speculation, some informed but a lot of it wishful, that government formation would be hobbled variously by the tug of war between its two local strongmen, and by the competing claims of influential communities in a caste-ridden state. In the event, and after a couple of days of drama in the national headquarters of the party, the government of Karnataka has taken shape, and appears to accommodate the ambitions of all its senior leaders. The first question ~ of who would be Chief Minister ~ was settled quite easily, and from all accounts, D K Shivakumar gracefully accepted the formulation arrived at by party bosses who picked the veteran Siddaramaiah to head the government.
The next question surrounded the ambitions of the party’s most prominent Dalit leader, Dr. G Parameshwara and the leading Lingayat leader, M B Patil. The former had served in the past as Deputy Chief Minister of the state and had headed the state unit of the party, while the latter was said to be instrumental in ensuring the switch of a chunk of his community’s votes from the Bharatiya Janata Party to the Congress. In the event, the announcement of Cabinet portfolios this week shows that care has been taken to accommodate both leaders with grace, with Dr. Parameshwara getting the crucial Home portfolio and Mr. Patil the equally significant Large and Medium Industries portfolio. While a step short of what they may have aspired for, these allocations should allow the two leaders to pull strongly with the rest of the ministry. Mr. Siddaramaiah has retained the Finance, Personnel, Intelligence, IT and infrastructure portfolios which should ensure that his grip on the affairs of the state remains firm. His deputy, Mr. Shivakumar, has been given charge of Irrigation and Bengaluru development, both very significant, the former because agriculture is the most prominent occupation in the state, and the latter because the capital city contributes more than a third of the state’s Gross Domestic Product. In essence, therefore, the process of government formation appears to have been accomplished with considerable skill.
This government will have to hit the ground running, because the administrative successes the Congress can show in Karnataka will have an impact on its prospects in other states that go to the polls later this year. Of the five states ~ Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana ~ the Congress has a strong presence in at least three and the party will hope that the momentum gained from victories in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka this year will help it triumph in these. A lot, therefore, will depend on how its government in Bengaluru performs. It seems to have begun well and party leaders must hope that it avoids the pitfalls of infighting that have hobbled other Congress-ruled states.